Five Poems


The five-string banjo that he played
            throughout the night
Stands propped against the balustrade, 
            no one in sight.
At times I thought I halfway sensed
            what music meant
To him. But not today. Silence, 
            like something pent
For years, wells up within this ring
            of fretted trees,
While wind explores new fingerings
             among the leaves.


All damask was that world, and you
Within its traceries. Who knew
            that to confess
Our sheer adsorption there, our need
            to have no depth
But move as shadows that succeed
            without a breath
Or lasting shape – who thought that we
            would vanish, quite
As morning ends the revelry
            that outlasts night?


If you would step outside of time
          and space, into
That empty realm where no sublime
          awaits, to brew
A perfect cup of nothingness –
          before you put
It to your lips, do not profess
          that this is what
You always wanted. Better: say
          it wanted you,
And waited for this special day
          until you knew.


Gently, he folded back each thin
            slice of her brain,
As though we might find catching in
            that weathervane
Some faintly stirring wind – might deep
            within that pool
Of silence still engage a sleep
            beyond the rule
Of reason. “No,” he said, and laid
            his scalpel there
Beside the slab. “This is mere shade,
            not beauty bare.”


Initially it was not poems
            I hoped to write,
But memories – of faces, homes,
            that still seemed bright
Though unbelievably distant.
            There is no way,
A voice replied. Discrete events
            quickly decay; 
A star that once gave off a spark
            transmutes to lead.
Your own life streaks into the dark.
            Write poems instead.

About Jared Carter

Jared Carter’s first collection of poems, Work, for the Night is Coming, won the Walt Whitman Award for 1980. His second, After the Rain, received the Poets’ Prize for 1994. His third, Les Barricades Mystérieuses, appeared in 1999.  All three volumes are available from Cleveland State University Poetry Center. His fourth book, Cross this Bridge at a Walk, is from Wind Publications in Kentucky.